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Communicating sensor data between electronic devices




Title: Communicating sensor data between electronic devices.
Abstract: Sensor data is communicated between two electronic devices under control of the receiving device. For example, one device is equipped with one or more sensors that can produce a stream of real-time readings. The other device can request the sensor data from the first device and can also specify to the first device one or more throttling criteria to control or limit the amount of sensor data that is sent. Each throttling criterion can specify both a category of criterion (e.g., time-based, value-based, etc.) and a throttling parameter specific to the category. The first device can monitor the sensor data to determine when a throttling criterion specified by the second device is satisfied; when the throttling criterion is satisfied, the first device can send the current sensor reading as sensor data to the second device. ...

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USPTO Applicaton #: #20120083911
Inventors: Sylvain R.y. Louboutin, Robert J. Walsh, Shyam S. Toprani


The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120083911, Communicating sensor data between electronic devices.

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

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This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/388,465, filed Sep. 30, 2010, entitled “Communicating Sensor Data Between Electronic Devices,” the disclosure of which is incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

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The present disclosure relates in general to communication between electronic devices and in particular to communicating sensor data between two electronic devices, such as a computing device and an accessory.

Mobile computing devices, including smart phones, personal digital assistants, and tablet computers, are rapidly becoming ubiquitous. Such devices often include sensors that provide information about the device or its surroundings, such as ambient light sensors, proximity sensors, accelerometers, magnetometers, and so on. These sensors can produce a continuous stream of data, which is typically sampled by a processor within the device and used in various ways. For example, data from an ambient light sensor can be used to automatically brighten or dim the device's display. Accelerometer data can be used to automatically rotate the display based on which edge is currently pointed up. Magnetometer data can be used to infer orientation of the device (e.g., a compass direction), and this information can be used in navigation or other applications.

Some mobile computing devices can also communicate with “accessory” devices, such as speakers and/or video systems that can receive video content from the mobile computing device, remote control devices, and the like. The mobile computing device can, for example, stream media content (e.g., audio and/or video) to the accessory or receive control signals from the accessory to control playback, communication, or other operations.

SUMMARY

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Certain embodiments of the present invention provide techniques for communicating sensor data between two electronic devices, e.g., a mobile computing device (MCD) or other computing device and an accessory. In these embodiments, a first one of the devices (e.g., the MCD) can be equipped with one or more sensors (e.g., light sensor, proximity sensor, accelerometer) that can produce a stream of real-time readings. This sensor data may be of use in the operation of the second device (e.g., the accessory). The second device can request the sensor data from the first device and can also specify to the first device a throttling criterion to control or limit the amount of sensor data that is sent. The throttling criterion can specify both a “throttling category” (i.e., a type of condition to consider, such as time elapsed, magnitude of change in the reading, threshold conditions, or rate of change conditions) and a “throttling parameter” specific to the category (e.g., a specific time interval in the case of a time-based category, a specific magnitude in the case of a magnitude-based category, and so on). The first device can receive the request and the throttling criterion and initiate a process that monitors the sensor data to determine when the throttling criterion is satisfied; when the throttling criterion is satisfied, the first device can send the current sensor reading as sensor data to the second device.

The following detailed description together with the accompanying drawings will provide a better understanding of the nature and advantages of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

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FIG. 1 is a front view of a mobile computing device connected to an accessory according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIGS. 2-5 are graphs of a sensor reading as a function of time for a sensor, illustrating categories of throttling criteria according to various embodiments of the present invention. In FIG. 2, the throttling category is based on a time interval. In FIG. 3, the throttling category is based on a change in the sensor data. In FIG. 4, the throttling category is based on a threshold applied to the sensor data. In FIG. 5, the throttling category is based on a rate of change of the sensor data.

FIG. 6 is a simplified block diagram of a system including a mobile computing device and an accessory according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a table illustrating commands that can be used to communicate sensor data from a mobile computing device to an accessory according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 8 is a flow diagram of a process that can be used by a mobile computing device to send sensor data to an accessory according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 9 is a flow diagram of a process that can be used by an accessory to obtain sensor data from a mobile computing device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

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Certain embodiments of the present invention provide techniques for communicating sensor data between two electronic devices, e.g., a mobile computing device (MCD) or other computing device and an accessory. In these embodiments, a first one of the devices (e.g., the MCD) can be equipped with one or more sensors (e.g., light sensor, proximity sensor, accelerometer) that can produce a stream of real-time readings. This sensor data may be of use in the operation of the second device (e.g., the accessory). The second device can request the sensor data from the first device and can also specify to the first device a throttling criterion to control or limit the amount of sensor data that is sent. The throttling criterion can specify both a “throttling category” (i.e., a type of condition to consider, such as time elapsed, magnitude of change in the reading, threshold conditions, or rate of change conditions) and a “throttling parameter” specific to the category (e.g., a specific time interval in the case of a time-based category, a specific magnitude in the case of a magnitude-based category, and so on). The first device can receive the request and the throttling criterion and initiate a process that monitors the sensor data to determine when the throttling criterion is satisfied; when the throttling criterion is satisfied, the first device can send the current sensor reading as sensor data to the second device.

The example embodiments described below relate to a configuration in which a sensor is present in an MCD and the accessory requests sensor data; however, it is to be understood that the roles of the devices can be reversed, with a sensor being present in the accessory and sensor data being requested by the MCD, and that the techniques described herein can be applied equally to both situations. Further, while the example embodiments described below make specific reference to a mobile computing device, it is to be understood that other types of computing devices can be substituted and that embodiments of the present invention can be applied in connection with providing sensor data between any two electronic devices.

FIG. 1 is a front view of a mobile computing device (MCD) 100 connected to an accessory 120 according to an embodiment of the present invention. MCD 100 can have a touchscreen display 102 surrounded by bezel 104. Control buttons 106 provided in bezel 104 can be used, e.g., to wake MCD 100 from a hibernation state, to put MCD 100 into a hibernation state, or the like.

MCD 100 can have a connector 108 recessed into a bottom surface thereof, allowing MCD 100 to dock with an accessory device. Connector 108 can include a number of pins for carrying power, analog, and digital signals between MCD 100 and a connected accessory. In one embodiment, connector 108 can be implemented as a 30-pin docking connector as used in existing iPod® and iPhone® products sold by Apple Inc., assignee of the present application; in this embodiment, connector 108 is recessed into the housing of MCD 100 and is referred to as a “receptacle” connector. Other connectors can also be used.

MCD 100 can also have a wireless network interface, indicated by antenna 112, permitting access to a voice and/or data network. While antenna 112 is shown as external, it is to be understood that antenna 112 can be built into the housing of MCD 100. Any type of network access can be supported, and MCD 100 can provide wired network interfaces (e.g., Ethernet) in addition to or instead of a wireless interface.

MCD 100 can also have various sensors that respond to changes in conditions related to MCD 100. In some embodiments, an external sensor 114 can detect an external condition around MCD 100 and generate a signal indicative of the condition. Examples include an ambient light sensor that detects a light level around MCD 100 and generates a light-level signal, a proximity sensor that detects distance between a surface of MCD 100 and another surface and generates a proximity signal, a temperature sensor, a pressure sensor, a sound sensor (e.g., a microphone) or the like. In some embodiments, an internal sensor 116 can detect conditions within MCD 100 itself. Examples include an accelerometer and/or gyroscope that detects movement of MCD 100 and generates signals indicating direction of movement and/or orientation of MCD 100, a magnetometer that detects orientation of MCD 100 in a magnetic field (e.g., Earth\'s magnetic field, providing a compass) and generates corresponding signals, or the like. It is to be understood that any number and combination of sensors can be provided.

In the embodiment shown, MCD 100 can be a tablet computer with, e.g., a 10-inch screen. In other embodiments, MCD 100 can have a variety of form factors and configurations, e.g., smart phone, personal digital assistant, media player, portable web browser, etc.

Accessory 120 can be any accessory capable of interoperating with MCD 100. In the example shown, accessory 120 is a video dock that provides a display screen 122 and speakers 124. Accessory 120 can connect to MCD 100 via a cable 126. Cable 126 terminates in a connector 128 that mates with connector 108 of MCD 100. Cable 126 can incorporate various signal lines to provide transmission of control signals, audio signals, video signals, power and the like between MCD 100 and accessory 120. Thus, for example, MCD 100 can generate analog or digital video signals (including images and audio) and transmit the signals to accessory 120 via cable 126. In other embodiments, the connection can be wireless, e.g., using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth or the like. In some embodiments, accessory 120 may include a control panel (not shown) or remote control (also not shown) and can send control signals to MCD 100 in response to operation of the controls. Thus, a user can control operations of MCD 100 by interacting with accessory 120.

Accessory 120 can have any form factor desired. For example, a video dock may provide a significantly larger screen than MCD 100, allowing several users to watch a movie or the like together. In some embodiments, multiple accessories can be connected to MCD 100 at a given time. For example, while accessory 120 is connected via cable 126, another accessory can be connected wirelessly, or multiple accessories can be connected wirelessly to MCD 100, or MCD 100 can have multiple ports for wired connections; other configurations are also possible.

In some embodiments, it is desirable for accessory 120 to make use of sensor data collected by external sensor 114 and/or internal sensor 116 of MCD 100. As an example, it may be desirable to adjust the brightness of display 122 based on the ambient light level, in which case it would be desirable to provide information about the ambient light level to accessory 120; assuming external sensor 114 includes an ambient light sensor, accessory 120 can make use of the ambient light sensor data. As another example, accessory 120 may be capable of executing a program such as a navigation program that can benefit from having information as to the orientation (e.g., compass direction) in which it is currently pointed; assuming internal sensor 116 includes a magnetometer, accessory 120 can make use of the magnetometer data. The ability of accessory 120 to obtain sensor data from MCD 100 can, for example, reduce the cost of manufacturing accessory 120 (e.g., by eliminating the need to provide similar sensors in accessory 120) or provide more consistent behavior across different accessories interoperating with the same MCD.

In addition, even in cases where accessory 120 has its own sensors, it may still be useful for accessory 120 to obtain sensor data from MCD 100. For example, accessory 120 and MCD 100 can be in different places (cable 126 can be quite long, or wireless connections can be used) and thus experiencing different environmental conditions. Accessory 120 may be interested in the environmental conditions of MCD 100 (or vice versa).

Accordingly, in some embodiments of the present invention, the signals exchanged between MCD 100 and accessory 120 can include sensor data originating from any sensor of MCD 100 including external sensor 114 and internal sensor 116. In some embodiments, a sensor can provide updated data to MCD 100 on a substantially continuous basis (e.g., the interval between updates can be on the order of microseconds or shorter). However, providing sensor data updates to accessory 120 on a substantially continuous basis is not always necessary or desirable. For example, in some embodiments, frequent sensor data updates can consume a significant fraction (possibly even all) of the available bandwidth in a communication channel between MCD 100 and accessory 120, which can limit or slow (or block) other communication in that channel. In addition, in some embodiments, accessory 120 may have limited processing capability as compared to MCD 100, so even if the channel has sufficient bandwidth to transmit all the sensor data, accessory 120 might not have enough processing capability to process all of the data. Even if the communication channel has sufficient bandwidth and accessory 120 sufficient processing capability, accessory 120 might not need all of the sensor data in order to operate as desired, so that transmitting all the data, while possible, would be wasteful.

As these examples illustrate, rather than transmitting all available sensor data, it may be desirable to transmit only data that will actually be used by accessory 120, which may be a fraction of the data or data indicative of the occurrence of a particular event or change in condition.




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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20120083911 A1
Publish Date
04/05/2012
Document #
File Date
12/31/1969
USPTO Class
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
/
Drawings
0




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20120405|20120083911|communicating sensor data between electronic devices|Sensor data is communicated between two electronic devices under control of the receiving device. For example, one device is equipped with one or more sensors that can produce a stream of real-time readings. The other device can request the sensor data from the first device and can also specify to |Apple-Inc